PMEL Acoustics Program logo National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Acoustics Program
station map

NOAA Ocean Noise Reference Station Network

This unique network of hydrophones is a collaborative effort between OAR’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), all NMFS Science Centers, the NOS National Marine Sanctuary System, and the National Park Service to establish and collect consistent and comparable long-term acoustic data sets covering all major regions of the U.S.


Click here for larger globe view. (Note that NRS10, Ofu Island, American Samoa, is not shown on this map.)
For a Google Earth view of the stations, open the kmz file here.





Passive acoustic monitoring of the ocean ambient sound field is a critical aspect of NOAA’s mandate for ocean and coastal stewardship. This includes detecting and characterizing: (1) sounds produced and used by living marine resources (e.g., endangered marine mammals); (2) natural sources of noise from physical oceanographic processes; and (3) anthropogenic noise sources that contribute to the overall ocean noise environment. Noise generated by anthropogenic activities (especially commercial shipping and seismic oil & gas exploration) is increasingly being recognized as a potential threat to marine mammals which are protected in the U.S. by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Current scientific data suggest that increased ambient noise levels impact marine mammals by hindering communication (Hatch et al. 2012), altering communication behavior (Parks et al. 2013), altering locomotive behavior (Pirotta et al. 2013), and inducing stress (Rolland et al. 2012).


Additional concerns associated with the degraded acoustic quality of diverse habitats broaden these concerns to include possible repercussions for fish and invertebrate species, many of which NOAA manages as commercially-harvested, protects as resources within sanctuaries, or studies as key elements to sustaining healthy ecosystems. For these reasons it is important for science-based regulatory agencies including NOAA to monitor long-term trends and changes in the ambient sound field.

Research Objective:

The objective of the proposed project is to establish a network of initially ten ocean noise reference stations in U.S. waters to monitor long-term changes and trends in the underwater ambient sound field (McDonald et al. 2006). Our plan is to deploy identical autonomous acoustic recording systems developed in-house at PMEL at each reference station to ensure proper calibration and consistency of the collected data sets. The hydrophone moorings will be deployed in the following areas:


Second Deployments:
Station Partners Deployed Ship Lat Lon Water depth [m]
NRS01 NOAA/AFSC 9-Sep-2016 R/V Aquila 72.4430 -156.5517 1000
NRS02 NOAA/PMEL Summer 2016 CCGS John P. Tully 50.2500 -145.1300 4,250
NRS03 NOAA/NWFSC & NOAA/OCNMS 1-Oct-2015 R/V Bell M Shimada 47.7651 -125.5222 936
NRS04 NOAA/PIFSC Spring 2017 TBD 22.3333 -157.6667 ~4,900
NRS05 NOAA/SWFSC 5-Nov-2015 R/V Ruben Lasker 33.9000 -119.5820 1,000

late March/early April

R/V Gordon Gunter 28.2502 -86.8327 1230
NRS07 NOAA/SEFSC late March/early April R/V Gordon Gunter 29.3336 -77.9995 870
NRS08 NOAA/NEFSC April 2016 TBD 40.1300 -66.2499 ~3,550
NRS09 NOAA/SBNMS 17-Sep-2015 R/V Auk 42.4037 -70.1294 79
NRS10 NPS/NPAS Spring 2016 Small NPS R/V -14.2686 -170.7196 33
NRS11 NOAA/CBNMS Fall 2016 TBD 37.8808 -123.4353 534


First Deployments:

Station Partners Deployed Ship Lat Lon Water depth [m]
NRS01 NOAA/AFSC 01-Oct-2014 R/V Aquila 72.4900 -156.6018 991
NRS02 NOAA/PMEL 02-Jan-2015 R/V Thomas G. Thompson 50.2500 -145.1300 4,250
NRS03 NOAA/NWFSC & NOAA/OCNMS 21-Sep-2014 R/V Bell M Shimada 47.7631 -125.5184 921
NRS04 NOAA/PIFSC proposed for July 2014 R/V Hi'ialakai 22.3333 -157.6667 ~4,900
NRS05 NOAA/SWFSC 17-Oct-2014 R/V Ocean Starr 33.9000 -119.5800 1,000
NRS06 NOAA/SEFSC 30-Jul-2014 R/V Gordon Gunter 28.0062 -86.9937 2,790
NRS07 NOAA/SEFSC 19-Apr-2015 R/V Gordon Gunter 29.3336 -77.9995 870
NRS08 NOAA/NEFSC 11-Jun-2014 R/V Gloria Michelle 40.1300 -66.2499 ~3,550
NRS09 NOAA/SBNMS 29-Oct-2014 R/V Auk 42.4041 -70.1300 78
NRS10 NPS 09-Jun-2015 Small NPS R/V -14.2686 -170.7196 33


It is of critical importance to begin these baseline measurements now so we can establish as long a time series as possible to gauge the changes induced by anthropogenic and climate stressors on the marine ambient sound environment (for a summary see Hildebrand 2009). We will investigate the spatio-temporal variability in low-frequency deep ocean ambient sound levels (10 - 2,200 Hz) at these nine ocean regions within the U.S. EEZ. Once this network of instruments is deployed, our goal will be to maintain and expand (e.g., Mariana Islands) the array and build a multi-year record of ambient sound levels in these regions. We will then be able to identify and delineate seasonal and long-term man-made and climate-induced noise sources.


Holger Klinck, Robert P. Dziak, 
Haru Matsumoto, David K. Mellinger

2115 SE OSU Drive
Newport, OR 97365
Jay Barlow 
8901 La Jolla Shores Drive
La Jolla, CA 92037
Catherine Berchok
7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Brad Hanson, Marla Holt
2725 Montlake Boulevard East
Seattle, WA 98112
Leila Hatch
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
175 Edward Foster Road
Scituate, MA 02066
Christian Meinig
7600 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115
Erin Oleson
1601 Kapiolani Boulevard
Honolulu, HI 96814
Melissa Soldevilla
75 Virginia Beach Drive
Miami, FL  33149
Sofie Van Parijs
166 Water Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543


Hatch, L.T., Clark, C.W., Van Parijs, S.M., Frankel, A.S., and Ponirakis D.W. (2012): Quantifying loss of acoustic communication space for right whales in and around a U.S. National Marine Sanctuary. Conservation Biology, 26:983-994.

Hildebrand, J.A. (2009): Anthropogenic and natural sources of ambient noise in the ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 395:5-20.

McDonald, M.A., Hildebrand, J.A., and Wiggins, S. M. (2006): Increase in deep ocean ambient noise in the Northeast Pacific west of San Nicolas Island, California. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 1520:711-718.

Porter, M., and Henderson, L. (2013): Global ocean soundscapes. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, 19:010050 (6 pages).

Parks, S.E., Johnson, M.P., Nowacek, D.P., and Tyack, P.L. (2012): Changes in Vocal Behavior of North Atlantic Right Whales in Increased Noise. In: The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life, Popper, A.N., Hawkins, A. eds., Springer, pp. 317-320.

Pirotta, E., Milor, R., Moretti, D., Di Marzio, N., Tyack, P.L., and Hastie, G. (2013): Vessel Noise Affects Beaked Whale Behavior: Results of a Dedicated Acoustic Response Study. PLoS ONE, 7(8):e42535.

Rolland, R.M., Parks, S.E., Hunt, K.E., Castellote, M., Corkeron, P.J., Nowacek, D.P., Wasser, S.K., and Kraus, S.D. (2012): Evidence that ship noise increases stress in right whales. Proceedings of the Royal Society B., 279:2363-2368.